I’m Games to Remember (Regular Season Edition)

P.K. Subban’s contract signing generated a wide variety of reactions amongst hockey fans. At the end of the day,  I was relieved he got signed. I was discussing his play from this past season with some friends. I was reminded of the important role he played in the Habs’ epic comeback win versus the Ottawa Senators.  That comeback win was definitely one of the most memorable games in recent memory and I can see myself telling my son about it even 15 years from now.  (Realistically I’ll probably be talking to my son about that game and many others incessantly. I already feel bad for the kid. He’ll be rolling his eyes while I say stuff like: “back in my day…players played with gumption.”  Yes – I can see myself turning into a “Back in My Day” fan and apparently I will start using the word “gumption.”)

I began to think about other memorable games I had seen. Why were they so relevant? What do I remember about them? What was I doing during those games?

I decided to write about the Habs’ ten most memorable regular season games. Why just focus on the regular season? Because let’s face it; 95% of memorable games would be playoff games including pretty much every single game of the ’93 Cup run. Furthermore, I decided to just focus on the last 15 years, because, well – I wanted to make it easier for myself, and it’s more topical. Also, I decided to exclude any games that were memorable for infamous reasons (Roy’s last game, Pacioretty seriously hurt by a mutant giraffe Chara, McCleary’s frightening injury, etc…). I figure “Habs infamous games” could be a topic for a future blog.

What I wanted to do was concentrate on games that were memorable for the game on the ice and that had a positive vibe. Lastly, the games had to be from my own memory – so while I have no doubt I missed important ones – these are the ten games that stood out in my mind when I sat down to think about it. Feel free to let me know what regular season games stood out for you over the last 20 years in the comments below or on twitter (@wolverinehabs).

Honorable Mention: Jaro Halak 35 shot shutout vs. Flyers (April 2nd 2010)
Final Score: 1-0 Habs

Why was it memorable?

The Habs were in a tight race for the the final playoff spot in 2010 and were essentially in playoff mode. This was at the peak of the Halak vs. Price debate. Halak was definitely outplaying Price at this point and he backed that up by stonewalling Philly in the 4th to last game of the season – a must win game for the Habs – essentially foreshadowing his epic run in the 2010 post season.

What was I doing?

The reason why this game is going down as an honorable mention is because I don’t remember it. I wanted to include Halak for his memorable year and I have vague recollections of some big wins down the stretch but couldn’t recall one in detail…so I googled it. In my defense it was a Friday night in my late 20s and odds are I started the night at Irish Embassy and ended up three sheets to the wind.

#10:  Habs/Bruins Fight Night (Feb 9th 2011)
Final Score: 8-6 Bruins (goals), 138-2 Bruins (fights).

Why was it memorable?

Considering this game featured the Habs losing and getting their asses handed to them – it seems to be memorable for the wrong reasons. Ultimately this was an exciting, fight filled game that I recall vividly. Besides the fact that 14 goals were scored, the game featured multiple fights, 45 penalties, and 187 penalty minutes handed out. The game also included a half-hearted goalie fight between Thomas and Price. All in all, Boston laid claim to their physical dominance as well as to their scoring ability. However, I will also remember it as a minor coming out party for Pacioretty who scored 2 goals and was in the midst of really gathering momentum for the first time in his career. Unfortunately, that momentum was sidelined during the next game vs. the Bruins as a result of the Chara incident.

What was I doing?

I was going ape shit on the sofa at home, whilst frantically googling Jacques Martin’s number so I could offer my services as a pugilist for the Habs. Keep in mind, I have no idea how to fight, and I’m significantly smaller than Campbell, Lucic, and (of course) Chara. Nonetheless I would run for my life kick their asses and then have my teammates toss me some Molsons from the bench so I can salute the crowd, while I flipped the bird at the Bruins’ bench.

#9: Kovalevmania runs wild on the Bruins (March 20, 2008)
Final Score: 4-2 Habs

Why was it memorable?

Kovalev scored, what Bob McKenzie described, as two of the nicest bad goals you’ll ever see. Either way this was Kovalev at his peak powers. Montreal had grasped a hold of first place in the conference earlier in the month and beat their rivals for the 6th straight time that season.

What was I doing?

I was enjoying the game at home…by myself. Besides Kovymania, this game is memorable for me because it was the day my niece was born. My father was out in Vancouver to support my sister during the birth of her first child and he called me during the game:

Dad: The baby was born today!
Me: Congrats grandpa!
Dad: Yes, yes – thank you. Wha…
Me: [interrupted my dad] So? Baby is healthy? Sister is ok?
Dad: Yes. Your sister is doing great. Baby is healthy – 10 fingers, 10 toes…Now what’s the score in the hockey game?

You got to love my Pops.

#8: Carey Price’s first game vs. Penguins (October 10, 2007).
Final Score: 3-2 Habs

Why was it memorable?

Pretty obvious, right? This was Carey Price’s first game in a Habs uniform. I can’t remember a Habs prospect that had more hype coming into his pro career than Carey Price. His legendary performance at the 2010 World Juniors and his subsequent run to the Calder Cup championship in the AHL caused Habs fans to dream about the second coming of Roy, Dryden, and Plante. While he still has a long way to go to join those legends, he is well on his way and it all started with this game.

What was I doing?

I recall being downtown during this game. I was excited to watch Price and my birthday was coming up. I had a habit, back then, of dragging my birthday celebration over a 2 to 3 to 7 day period. Details of the game escape me, and we’ll just assume many pints were drunk in honour of Carey’s first win.

#7: Theodore scores goal and records a shutout vs. Islanders (Jan 3rd 2001)
Final Score: 3-0 Habs

Why was it memorable?

To be honest, I didn’t even remember that Theo got the shutout here (apparently he is only the second goaltender to ever score a goal and record a shutout). When a goaltender scores a goal, it’s pretty memorable. It made more relevant that Theo was establishing himself as the superstar du jour following a fairly bleak time in Habs’ history.

What was I doing?

I remember being at home when he grabbed that puck on his backhand and lifted it into the air. I remember standing up slowly. I remember jumping around as the puck slid down the ice. As the puck went in, I remember jumping so high that I morphed into Michael Jordan and jumped over my parents, grabbed the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, and started swinging around the room like Spiderman. That’s right – I turned into a hybrid Michael Spider Jordan Man…Actually I just sat back down on the sofa and took a sip from my tea, but I was really excited.

#6: Subban’s Wild Hat Trick (March 20, 2011)
Final Score: 8-1 Habs

Why was it memorable?

Cause P.K. freakin’ Subban scored a hat trick and the defensive minded Habs lit up Minny for 8 goals. P.K. had already established himself as a fan favorite and a player with a bright future during his rookie campaign, but this was a true coming out party for the young defenseman.

What was I doing?

I missed part of this game because I was recovering from the St. Patrick’s Day parade that occurred earlier in the day. And when I say recovering from the parade, I mean recovering from at least 23  pints of beer and 103 shots of Jameson. (please note: these numbers are most likely very inaccurate)

#5: Kovalev levels Tucker vs. Leafs (March 25 2006)
Final Score: 6-2 Habs.

Why was it memorable?

Because of this:

tucker_27s_face_kovalev_27s_elbow

This image became every Habs fan’s avatar, desktop, and screen saver for at least a 5 years.

What was I doing?

I was downtown, after failing to procure tickets to this game. I joined many other fans at one of the pubs on Bishop. Mostly I recall my immediate feeling during that hit. I was trying to deal with the adrenaline rush that coursed through my body as Kovy crunched Douchey Tucker. I’m pretty sure I ripped my shirt off like Hulk Hogan, gave some poor Leafs fan a Stone Cold Stunner and then started violently chest bumping everyone around me and chanting Kovalev’s name over and over. KOVY! KOVY! KOVY!

#4: Cammalleri’s Centennial Hat Trick vs. Bruins (December 4, 2009)
Final Score: 5-1 Habs

Why was it memorable?

Well the game included an amazing pre-game ceremony involving countless Habs legends and we were playing our main rivals in the Boston Bruins. Cammalleri, who had shown tremendous respect for the rich history of the Canadiens franchise, lit the lamp on 3 occasions, giving us a lasting memory and a glimpse into his goal scoring prowess in big games that would come to the forefront during the Habs 2010 playoff run.

What was I doing?

I was watching the game at home with my Dad before heading out and immediately buying a Cammalleri t-shirt and wearing it for 13 days straight.

#3: St. Paddy Weekend Miracle Comeback vs. Senators (March 15, 2014)
Final Score: 5-4 Habs

Why was it memorable?

The Habs looked dead in the water in this game. Down 4-1 with just over 3 mins left to play, P.K. Subban took over the game. Desharnais scored with less than a second on the clock to tie the game and the immortal Frankie Boo won it in overtime. Habs used the win to generate momentum down the stretch and carry them on a run to the Eastern conference finals this past season.

What was I doing?

I was at Irish Embassy. I was also mauled by Chewbacca or some other Wookie type being when the Habs won the game. I was also so moved by this win, by the composure of Price and the dominance of P.K. that I wrote about it here.

#2: The Comeback vs. Rangers (February 19th,2008)
Final Score: 6-5 (shootout) Habs

Why was it memorable?

Simply put, this game represents the greatest comeback in the franchise‘s 100 plus year history. Down 5-0 with less than half the game left to play – Habs did the impossible – they came all the way back to tie the game on Kovalev’s goal, resulting in Pierre Houde’s famous line “Kovalev! Qui d’autre!” and the most iconic goal celebration of Kovalev’s career:

koivu-kovalev

Captain Koivu closed it out with the winning goal in a shootout to complete the historic comeback.

What was I doing?

I was at a friend’s house, having gone there with a few other friends to have some beers and watch the game. By the time the Rangers had gone up 5-0 in the second period, we had stopped paying attention to the game altogether, flipping channels to check out some NBA action. We flipped back over to the game just in time to see Ryder score the Habs’ first goal of the game. A few minutes later, Ryder scored again to make it 5-2. When the Habs scored nine seconds apart in the third to make it 5-4, none of us were sitting down anymore. When Kovalev scored the goal to tie the game, we started hugging each other and jumping around like Oprah had just given us all free cars. By the time Huet stopped Jagr to clinch the win for the Habs, we were all so amped up that  we went outside and started smashing cars and looting SAQ’s. Of course I’m kidding – we all went home because it was a Tuesday and we had to work the next morning.

#1: Saku Koivu’s Comeback vs. Senators (April 9th, 2002)
Final Score: 4-3 Habs

Why was it memorable?

The wasn’t about the game, although the Habs won; this was about the moment. Saku Koivu returns to the lineup after spending the better part of the year fighting cancer. As the team’s best player and its heart and soul, as a guy who always worked hard and never took a shift off, as a fan favorite and a well respected player throughout the league – this moment was truly memorable; this moment was truly emotional. Even 12 years later, when watching the video of the fans’ reaction as Koivu steps out onto the ice, it brings a tear to my eye and gives me goosebumps. He holds a special place in Montreal fans’ hearts, as was evidenced this past season when he played his last game here as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

What was I doing?

I was staring in disbelief at the ultimate courage on display. I was in awe of the fans who honoured him rightly with a raucous 8 minute standing ovation. I was learning a hard lesson about life; what was actually important in life; what really should matter. I think Jack Todd wrote something along the lines of “that was the night the Bell Centre found its soul”, and that couldn’t be more true. Certainly, it was memorable for all the right reasons and I have never been prouder of being a Habs fan than I was that night.

Saku! Saku! Saku!
Go Habs Go.

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